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Ouse Washes are an energetic and very entertaining molly side who have been performing (coincidental-Ely) for thirty years. They are based in Norfolk and take their name from an area of the fens between the Old and New Bedford rivers. Wikipedia explains that Ouse Washes has Special Protection Area status but is quite often saturated in summer. However, it is not clear whether they are talking about the fens or the molly dancers.
Letchworth Morris has an illustrious history, having been founded in 1922 and they were original members of the Morris Ring. Apparent-Ely, pubs were banned in the Garden City of Letchworth until 1958 which must have made it difficult to find suitable morris dancing locations. Notable former residents of the city include Jennie Bond (BBC journalist), Jack Hobbs (international cricketer), Laurence Olivier (acting legend), Magnus Pyke (TV scientist) and Michael Winner (film director and restaurant critic) --- a varied bunch indeed.
Inevitab-Ely, Kettle Bridge congregated at a small café called Tea For Two, although perhaps Coffee For Twenty would have been a better name. I don't know if they have ever been so busy before on a quiet Sunday morning. Suitab-Ely refreshed, we moved down into Market Place where the first stand was.
The weather was cloudy and a bit breezy but thankful-Ely dry. The dancing location itself was excellent with good, solid paving underfoot and Alan's drum real-Ely reverberated off the surrounding buildings to create a great atmosphere. Being a Sunday morning, the crowd was fair-Ely sparse but those that were there thorough-Ely enjoyed themselves.
As usual, each side took it in turns to dance. Kettle Bridge performed Prescot, KBC Processional, Lostock and Milnrow and bare-Ely put a foot wrong. It was interesting to watch Ouse Washes as their style reminded me very much of our friends from Seven Champions, but perhaps that is just the way that mol-Ely is danced. Letchworth also put on a great show and they featured a special guest dancer (Brian) all the way from Kent --- fancy bumping into someone from the same place as Carol so far from home!
Our second stand was outside Ely Cathedral so there were rather more spectators at this venue. Our dances were Ealuscerwen, Shawforth, Saint Helens Gala and an all-in Churchtown to finish off. As usual, we had a large number of eager participants enthusiastical-Ely joining in for the last dance. It was also a treat to see a two-handed jig expert-Ely performed by a father and son pair from Letchworth.
Then it was off to our final stand at the Cutter Inn down by the river. Thankful-Ely there was time to grab a bite to eat before we were due to dance and, speaking personal-Ely the food that we had at the pub was excellent. As the effects of all the earlier dancing, a full bel-Ely and (sure-Ely not) the quaffing of a few ales started to take hold, this stand was merciful-Ely shorter than the others. We danced just Annie's and Cossington. There was one interesting variation to the usual fayre when the Letchworth fool performed an unusual but interesting dance using two shells. I think he must have picked up a couple of ash trays from the pub but I may be wrong.
The final performance was an all-in Bonny Green Garters which gave all the closet Cotswold dancers a chance to strut their stuff. Thankful-Ely this time there were no injuries.
So our wonderful weekend came to an end. A big thank you is due to Ouse Washes and Letchworth for making the day so memorable and a special mention for Tim and Caroline for doing sterling work collecting donations from the audience. But most of all, we owe a tremendous debt to all the Kettle Bridge organisers of the event (you know who you are!) who worked so hard to overcome all sorts of trials and tribulations to make it such a success. Here's to the next thirty years!
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